July 15, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
Megan Kirkland has never been afraid of hard work, on and off the court. The rising junior on South Carolina’s volleyball team is a former preferred walk-on who was recently awarded an athletics scholarship, and she has also been an exceptional performer in the classroom, earning straight A’s while also leading the team in community service hours.
“Megan is the model student-athlete,” said Scott Swanson, South Carolina volleyball head coach. “She was the valedictorian of her high school class, and because of her grades she received an academic scholarship. She is the hardest working, most respectful, and most coachable person you can ask for. You can only hope that your daughter is going to turn out to be like her. Her parents are such great down to earth people, so she comes from a great family too. She does everything the right way with a smile on her face. She has turned into a really good leader for us.”
Named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll in each of her first two years, Kirkland was also named to the SEC Community Service Team after leading the Gamecock volleyball team with more than 50 service hours last year.
“I just love giving back,” Kirkland said. “I tell people that when I do community service, it’s for the people I am serving, but I get so much out of it myself. We’re blessed with so much; we have to share it. We feed the homeless at Transitions a lot. I’ve loved that. There is also a gymnastics center that helps with special needs children, and that’s a way for them to get some energy out. That’s one of my favorites. Doing active things with young kids is a lot of fun.”
Kirkland is also a member of South Carolina’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which gives student-athletes a voice within the university structure by serving as a link between students who play sports and the athletic administration.
“It’s just another way to be a leader,” Kirkland said. “I’m representing our team at SAAC. It’s important to have our voice heard as a team.”
The Lugoff, S.C., native came to South Carolina on an academic scholarship after earning straight A’s in high school. While she was recruited to play volleyball, the academics and support systems in place helped clinch her decision to come to Columbia.
“That was one of the major reasons that I chose the University of South Carolina,” Kirkland said. “When I came on my visit, they showed me all of the academic facilities at the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center) with all of the computers and study rooms, as well as our amazing advisors who help us schedule tutors if we need them. Our volleyball staff helps create time for us to study when we travel. They’re 100% there for us. That really helped in the transition from high school to college.”
That success in the classroom continued into her collegiate career.
“I’ve never received a ‘B,’ that’s true,” Kirkland said. “My parents always taught me that academics come first, and in whatever you do, be the best you can be. I’m here for school, so I may as well be the best that I can be. I’m a student-athlete. ‘Student’ comes first; ‘athlete’ comes second. I work hard in the classroom, and I work hard on the court. It’s all paid off.”
Academics got me here to college and that’s how I first earned a scholarship. Hard work pays off. I’ve always told coach that I’m 100% committed to the team, whether I have a scholarship or not.
The exercise science major has her sights set on becoming a physician’s assistant. It’s not a surprise that she is looking to graduate a semester early after her senior season one year from now so she can get some volunteer hours under her belt during the following spring semester before starting physician’s assistant school that May at MUSC. While she might make it look easy, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average requires making some sacrifices.
“It is extremely hard,” Kirkland said. “Sometimes you have to choose to study over socializing, and that’s not always an easy decision. It’s all about time management. Whenever I have some time between two different events, I take out my books and study. It’s definitely a sacrifice to keep up a 4.0 and play Division I sports.”
Kirkland is obviously doing the right things in the athletics arena as well. Her academic scholarship didn’t cover all of her expenses, and when an athletics scholarship came open this year, Swanson had no problem awarding it to her.
“She earned a scholarship this year,” Swanson said. “We had one open up and were able to put her on it, and I was thrilled to be able to do that because she deserved it. She leads the way in being responsible, whether it’s in school, or showing up on time, or making sure everyone’s wearing the right shirt or being at the right weight room. It was the right time, and she deserved it, so she got it. I know she probably appreciates it more than anyone.”
“It was really awesome and something I’ve worked hard for,” Kirkland said. “My parents instilled in me that academics always come first. Academics got me here to college and that’s how I first earned a scholarship. Hard work pays off. I’ve always told coach that I’m 100% committed to the team, whether I have a scholarship or not. I’ve felt there is always accountability to my team regardless of whether I’m on scholarship. I’m definitely very grateful.”
As a defensive specialist/libero, Kirkland will be in the mix for a lot of playing time in 2015, and now that she’s an upperclassman, she’s ready to take on and expanded role on the court.
“I definitely always try to be a leader on the team,” Kirkland said. “I’ve always thought that with age comes more leadership. I’ve tried to lead by example during my first two years, and I feel that I need to be more of a vocal leader this year. One of our major goals is to reach the NCAA Tournament this year. We want to make it to the dance. We definitely want to improve our record from last year and have a winning season and continue to change the culture of the program. We want to stay committed and focused as a team.”
Kirkland has proven she can focus on and off the court, and if a “B” does appear on a future report card or she misses the next dig in a match, it won’t be from a lack of effort.
“I’ve never really thought about a lower grade,” Kirkland said. “It’s definitely not the end of the world. I’ve never expected anything less of myself than an ‘A.’ It’s definitely not easy. It’s all about putting in the time. As far as volleyball, since I’ve been here, I’ve been the quiet one. Some people might not know that I’m a little bit of a singer and dancer behind the scenes, but definitely all business on the court. I really just want to represent my home state of South Carolina the best that I can.”
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